What to do in Leipzig: 10 things to do in this cool East German city

What to do in Leipzig: 10 things to do in this cool East German city

by Erin McGann

Updated November 7, 2022

Leipzig is full of relaxed vibes, classical music history, excellent street art, communist history and green spaces. Berlin’s rising rents have made Leipzig an enticing choice for artists looking for an affordable yet still cool place to live. Friendly and fun, Leipzig is always worth a visit.

Here are ten things to do in Leipzig whether you’re visiting with your family or doing a day trip with friends:

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1. Cycle the Inner Green Ring

Although this route is no longer officially signposted, you can still rent a NextBike and follow all or part of the 68km route around the city limits. Take a break in the Leipziger Neuseenland, and enjoy the cool breezes from the lakes.

2. Rent a canoe on the Karl-Heine Canal

Enjoy the picturesque neighborhoods along the Karl-Heine Kanal as you paddle, as they give way to the beautiful park land and lakes of the Leipziger Neuseenland. If rowing your own canoe seems a bit too strenuous, you can always take a boat tour instead so you can fully relax and enjoy the views. If you only have one day in Leipzig, this is a great way to see as much as possible. 

3. Follow in Bach’s footsteps

Leipzig is where Johann Sebastian Bach spent much of his working life, and one of the top things to do in the city is to follow in his footsteps. Visit St Thomas Church and imagine Bach berating the choir, as he taught at the music school there from 1723 until his death in 1750. He also provided the music for other churches in the city, like the St Nicholas Church. You can visit the Bach Museum, housed in one of the oldest buildings in Leipzig – though not Bach’s old house, but the home of a merchant family he was friends with.

4. Marvel at the range of architectural styles

Leipzig is a study in architectural contrasts. The Altes Rathaus, the Old Town Hall, has been renovated and enlarged in stages since the 15th century, and extensively rebuilt after the Second World War. There was a building boom in the late 19th century and early 20th century, resulting in beautiful Art Nouveau facades and shopping arcades. The giant Plattenbau apartment blocks of the GDR era are also a sight to behold in their own way. You can purchase a map detailing all the architectural gems and where to find them from the Tourist Information Office.

5. Pretend you’re in Milan in the Mädlerpassage

The best known of Leipzig’s covered shopping passages is the beautiful Mädlerpassage. Built in 1912-1914, this four-storey passageway in glorious Art Nouveau style houses higher-end shops and cafés.

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6. Take in a performance by the famous Oper Leipzig

The Oper Leipzig, or Leipzig Opera, is the third oldest opera house in Europe, opened in 1693. The current Opernhaus is a 1950s architectural marvel, and at the time the only new opera house opened in the GDR.

7. Visit Mendelssohn House

If you like your classical music a bit more romantic than Bach, Leipzig has you covered. The former home of Felix Mendelssohn forms the center of the Mendelssohn museum, where you can learn all about Felix and his equally talented sister Fanny, and hear their beautiful music.

8. Do a street art tour of Leipzig

One of the more unusual things to do in Leipzig is to go street art spotting. Around every other corner in Leipzig there are incredible pieces of street art, some officially sanctioned and some not. You can just wander and take in whatever amazing pieces you see, or take a Leipzig Street Art walking tour. It’s in German, but think of it as a bit of a language class as well as a tourist activity!

9. Visit the Museum Runde Ecke

This fascinating museum describes itself as the ‘Runde Ecke’ Memorial Museum. Still run by the Citizens Committee of Leipzig that was born in the Peaceful Revolution of 1989, this museum is located in the former district headquarters of the Stasi. The museum opened barely a year after German reunification, and aims to maintain the original atmosphere of the Stasi offices, and educate visitors about the methods used by the Stasi in their work.

10. Take an audio tour of Communist Leipzig

If you can’t get enough of GDR-era Leipzig, download the GPS-enabled audio tour On the Trail of Leipzig’s Communist Past on Voicemap. Written and narrated by an author who studied in Leipzig during the GDR period, the tour takes you on an hour walk around Leipzig, describing what it was like during the 1980s, including many communist-era landmarks.

Spend memorable time in Leipzig

Whether you want to paddle a canoe on the canals, take in the street art, live out your Deutschland 82 GDR fantasies or follow in Bach and Mendelssohn’s footsteps, Leipzig can deliver on all of it and more.  

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Erin McGann is a Canadian freelance writer focusing on travel, living abroad, parenting, history, and culture. After nearly a decade living in the UK, Erin settled in Heidelberg, Germany with her husband and son. Dragging her family to every castle and open-air museum is a favorite activity, along with sewing, cooking, and weaving. You can check out her travel blog, and follow her obsession with half-timbered houses on her Instagram account.

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